OK, OK, I give up: On abandoning ‘The Making of the British Landscape’ by Nicholas Crane

To start with, if anybody wants to borrow this book they have only to come and collect it. I’m afraid to say that I have given up.

dscn6455I bought it on the basis of a glowing review in the Guardian. They call it a “magnificent book, ranging from the ice age to the present, (which) considers the influence on the countryside and cities of climate, geology and a long history of immigration”. (Hey… doesn’t Nicholas Crane sometimes write for the Guardian?) It’s always a pleasure reading a new book, and I started it with enthusiasm and pleasurable anticipation. As so often with this blog, I’m trying to sort out my own thoughts. What made me give it up?

Perhaps I’m in the wrong mood for this type of book. I have been reading a lot of fiction. However, I feel it’s more than that.

Firstly, it’s a dense read; I’m not sure exactly not sure what I mean by that, but I find it packed and dry. Occasionally long lists, something in the style of Peter Ackroyd, grate. Mr Crane tries to make it come alive by envisaging how people interacted with the landscape; sometimes, in my opinion, he goes too far, so we get a sentence like: “Killing an animal was a process of transformation; the cosmos was indivisible from self”. Another minor irritation was “the idea of an elongated sacred space- let’s call it a temenos”. Why are we calling it a temenos? I find this style less than absorbing.

The more I think about this, and the more I revise and re-revise this blogpost, the more muddled I get. You could well argue: “It’s beautifully written and well researched. You need to concentrate more, Mr Oblique.”

One Amazon review calls it a “superb addition to our knowledge”. (Another reviewer says it “promised much and has failed to deliver”, noting the absence of maps and diagrams, but likes the style.)

I really enjoyed Nichols Crane’s first book, ‘Clear Waters Rising: A Mountain Walk Across Europe’. I like his work on TV and enjoy his journalism. I WANT to enjoy reading this book. I could best sum my problem up by saying it does not come alive for me. Why can’t I get into it? Is it me? Answers, please.


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